Scientists find an important cause of autism

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Autism is a condition that affects how people communicate and behave, and it’s more commonly diagnosed in boys.

It typically becomes apparent in early childhood, with about 1 in 59 children being diagnosed. Understanding how autism develops is crucial to improving how we support those affected by it.

At the heart of our brain’s ability to think, learn, and behave is the communication between brain cells, or neurons. This communication happens through connections known as synapses.

During early development, an abundance of synapses is formed, facilitating better communication among neurons. Disruptions in this process can lead to developmental disorders such as autism.

Researchers from Northwestern University have been focusing on how genetic factors might influence the formation of these synapses, potentially leading to autism.

A key area of their study has been the role of the ANK3 gene, which produces a protein called ankyrin-G, known to be linked to various neurological conditions.

Their findings, recently published in Neuron, reveal that ankyrin-G is vital for the growth of dendrites, which are extensions of neurons that reach out to form synapses with other neurons.

However, ankyrin-G doesn’t work alone; it relies on an enzyme named Usp9X. Usp9X helps stabilize ankyrin-G, ensuring it can effectively contribute to the formation of synapses during early brain development.

The researchers discovered that if Usp9X is not functioning correctly, ankyrin-G levels decrease, particularly after birth, potentially leading to developmental problems.

This was observed in mice that lacked proper Usp9X function; these mice showed abnormal neuron behavior and had fewer synapses, resulting in impaired neuronal communication.

This study suggests that problems with the Usp9X gene might be one of the causes of autism. This breakthrough enhances our understanding of autism’s biological underpinnings and opens up new avenues for potential therapeutic strategies.

Although this is a significant step forward, more research is needed to fully understand the complexities of autism and confirm the role of Usp9X and ankyrin-G in this condition.

Such insights are crucial as they help pave the way for better diagnostic tools and treatments, potentially making a substantial difference in the lives of those affected by autism and their families.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and results showing Omega-3 fats may help reduce depression.

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